If you own your dental practice, you know that you have to comply with specific regulations as a business owner. One such requirement is submitting an Accessibility Compliance Report, which is due June 30, 2021This is an extension from the original deadline of December 31, 2020..
The Accessibility Compliance Report is part of Ontario’s initiative to increase compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). This year’s submission deadline is part of the requirement to file an accessibility compliance report every three years.
The process itself is simple enough – download, complete and submit a PDF form. There are resources on the Ontario website with detailed instructions on how to complete your Accessibility Compliance Report. We will review who is required to submit the Accessibility Compliance report, how to determine if that includes you, and what to do if you need to improve your practice’s accessibility compliance.
- Who Needs to Submit an Accessibility Compliance Report?
- Completing Your Accessibility Compliance Report
- Practice Accessibility Improvement
In 2005, the Government of Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The goal of the AODA is to make Ontario accessible by 2025 by creating and enforcing accessibility standards. The act focuses on developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards for:
- customer service
- information and communications
- design of public spaces
The Accessibility Compliance Report is one of many areas in which dentists may need to comply with the AODA as business owners and employers.
Who Needs to Submit an Accessibility Compliance Report?
The purpose of the Accessibility report is to ensure that Ontario businesses comply with all necessary AODA requirements, according to the type and size of the business. So, you first need to determine which category of business you fall into. Under the AODA, the only defining characteristic at this stage is whether your practice is a private business (or non-profit) or part of the designated public sector. As the owner of a private dental practice, you are part of the first category.
The next determinate is the number of employees that you have. You are only required to submit an Accessibility Compliance Report if you have 20 or more employees. So, if you own one dental practice with a small team of three, then you can rest assured that this requirement does not affect you. However, it is a bit trickier if you own multiple practices or have different types of employees.
How to count your employees
One factor that can complicate the process of determining who to include in your employee count is multiple practice locations. As an example, let’s look at a couple of different scenarios.
A – you have two practice locations, both operating under Dr. Dentist DPC.
- Smiles Dentistry West has 6 employees
- Smiles Dentistry North has 14 employees
Because both locations are operating under the same Dentistry Professional Corporation (DPC), you must combine the number of employees. So, you would be completing the Accessibility Compliance Report for Dr. Dentist DPC and reporting 20 total employees.
B – you have two practice locations, but each one operates under a separate DPC.
- Cobalt Dentistry has 16 employees, operating under Dr. AB Dentist DPC
- Pear Street Dental has 24 employees, operating under Dr. A Dentist DPC
In this case, you do not need to combine the total number of employees, as each is run separately. Cobalt Dentistry does not have 20 or more employees, so it does not need to submit a report. You would only complete the Accessibility Compliance Report for Dr. A Dentist DPC, as it has more than 20 employees.
Make sure you have accounted for all practice locations when determining your employee count.
Another critical element to establishing whether you are in the 20+ employee range is the status of your employees. When counting your employees:
- Full-time employees
- Part-time employees
- Seasonal employees
- Independent contractors
If using all factors above, you have determined that your practice does not have 20 or more employees, then you do not need to worry about submitting a report. But, of course, you do still have to meet other AODA requirements. So, please check out the Practice Accessibility section below for tips on keeping your dental practice compliant.
If you do have 20 or more employees, let’s look at what you need to complete the report.
Completing Your Accessibility Compliance Report
Before you start to fill out your report, make sure you have your:
- Legal Business Name
- Operating Business Name (Trade Name)
- Business Number (BN9 – found in your federal or provincial tax return)
- Number of Employees (that you calculated above)
The questions themselves are a straightforward yes or no style. Each one references an AODA requirement, and you need to confirm whether your dental practice is compliant or not. There are examples and links to additional information for each, detailing what it means to comply.
What if you are not in compliance?
While the questions in the form are easy, “Yes” is not always the correct answer. It is actually better for you to submit a report that includes a “No” where you are not yet in compliance rather than submit a false report. By owning up to any areas you still need to fix, you can potentially avoid any non-compliance fines. Rather than penalizing the “No” response(s), the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility (Ministry) will instead provide resources and supports, as necessary, to help you get your dental practice in line with the AODA requirements. In addition, you will be able to negotiate a future date when your practice will be expected to report full compliance.
It is an offence under the AODA to submit a false report or to not submit a report at all. If, during their annual audits, the Ministry determines that you have either submitted a false report or that you are not in compliance with all the AODA requirements relating to your business, you can be penalized heavily. The maximum penalties include:
- up to $50,000 for each full or part day that an offence happens for individual or non-incorporated businesses
- up to $100,000 for each full or part day that an offence happens for corporations.
- Directors and/or officers of a corporation can also be held liable to a fine of up to $50,000 for every full or part day that the offence happens.
Furthermore, in the current enforcement guidelines, you are more likely to face more significant fines for first violations. Now, not all businesses that do not comply with the requirements will receive the maximum penalties, but any penalty amount established will still be cumulative per day until compliance is met. So even a fine as little as $500 per day can add up significantly while you attempt to remedy the situation.
Practice Accessibility Improvement
Now that you have submitted this year’s Accessibility Compliance ReportUnder the AODA, Ontario businesses with 20 or more workers mustsubmit an Accessibility Compliance Report every three years, you have officially met the June 30th reporting requirements. If there were areas in the report that showed you were not compliant, now is your chance to correct them. Or, if any of your policies are verbal, this is an excellent time to look at putting them into a written policy manual. While some policies are not required to be documented until you pass a certain number of employees, there are many benefits to having a policy manual for your dental practice. One such benefit is that as you grow, you will not need to worry about what needs to become a written policy because you will already have them in place. Not to mention saving you the time to question whether you are compliant when you need to submit your next Accessibility Compliance Report.
There are many resources available to help small business owners stay in compliance with the AODA. Here are a few helpful ones:
- Accessibility rules for businesses and non-profits
- AODA Toolbox
- Ryerson Accessibility Maze – A fun new way to gain digital accessibility awareness
- AccessForward – Free training modules to meet AODA training requirements
- Monsido.com – Web accessibility audit, training and tools
- Discoverability – Roadmap to Inclusive Employment
If you have any questions about your responsibilities as a business owner or best practices on implementing your accessibility policies, please contact us. We are happy to help you manage compliance requirements, office policy manuals, and other employment issues.
Our Employment Law team is dedicated to helping dentists understand and minimize the risks associated with being an employer. Send DMC an email or call our Employment Law team directly at 416-443-9280 extension 206.